Review: Microsoft Office RoundTable

TMCnet want to keep you covered with their lengthy review of Redmond's five-camera foray into the teleconferencing game, which, as part of Microsoft's Unified Communications Platform, will probably be seeing a lot of action this year. Here’s what they say: Microsoft Office RoundTable is a very cool videoconferencing system featuring 360° panoramic views powered by […]

TMCnet want to keep you covered with their lengthy review of Redmond's five-camera foray into the teleconferencing game, which, as part of Microsoft's Unified Communications Platform, will probably be seeing a lot of action this year. Here’s what they say:

Microsoft Office RoundTable is a very cool videoconferencing system featuring 360° panoramic views powered by its 5 built-in cameras. Microsoft sent me a RoundTable system for review. I figured I may as well install it in one of TMC's two conference rooms to have some "real world" testing scenarios. After plugging in the various cables, including a USB cable to the host PC, I then installed the Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2007 (LM 2007) beta software client, which was designed to handle the RoundTable's 360° panoramic cameras. I should point out that Microsoft is offering both a hosted model for Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2007 as well as a CPE (customer premise equipment) solution, namely Office Communications Server 2007 (OCS 2007). The RoundTable can work with either. However, I tested it with a Microsoft Office Live Meeting online beta account.

The RoundTable actually installs two USB camera devices. The first is the Active Speaker which uses the RoundTable's 6 microphones to locate where in the room the active speaker is and then focus one of the 5 cameras onto that person. I suspect it may actually use 2 cameras to focus on a person, since it always appears that the speaker is "centered" which probably would require at least 2 camera images and then the images are "spliced" together, processed, and then transmitted over the USB cable. The second USB camera device is the panoramic camera which combines the 5 camera images into a single panoramic image.

Next, I initiated a Live Meeting session in the conference room and went back to my desk to join the meeting. Unbeknownst to me, by the time I got to my desk, some TMC sales team members walked into the conference room to start a meeting. When I launched my LM 2007 client I saw Anthony Graffeo, one of TMC's sales staff staring right into one of the 5 triangular mirrors located just above the cameras. I headed over the conference room to tell them I could see and hear everything that was going on. After giving a brief demo, Anthony said, "that frickin thing is awesome!". I heard similar comments from other TMCers over the next few days - including "That thing is cool" and "Wow! What is that?"

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